DiOW: Jeile

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

A risky disclosure at the bookstore allows Nevo to welcome another queer to the underground, but Jeile is more mystery than co-conspirator.

Setting: Two years before the beginning of the war referenced in Their Courts of Crows and Maybe When the Bones CrumbleDifferent in Other Ways introduces a brand-new set of characters and circumstances; readers don’t need any familiarity with my other works.

Jeile takes place several months before Booksellers Who Know Things, because I refuse to recognise the validity of something called chronological order.

Content Advisory: Casual swearing; references to classism; references to misogyny, allosexism, cissexism, and heterosexism; casual references to sex and sexual attraction; casual references to asexuality; and depictions of anxiety and avoidant personality disorder as shaped by autism.

Links: Series Master Post | Patreon

Previous: Booksellers Who Know Things | Men Bound by Blood

Length: 3, 351 words.

A quiet day leaves Nevo with a chance to sort, catalogue and price a new lot of books without interruptions from customers. He’ll never admit it, but he finds the work soothing despite its repetition. Take a book, study its condition, check his record books for the prices of similar volumes and notes on rarity, write it in and shelve—preferably, although not always, with other books on the subject. It’s the satisfaction, he supposes, in even small ways of conquering the shop’s tendency to unbridled chaos. He likes cleaning and tidying; he’s never understood, as a son living with his father, why these things are considered unmasculine. What’s unmanly about tolerating unnecessary clutter?

The bell rings as he moves the last of the atlases to their new bottom shelf. Nevo bites back a groan and straightens in time to see a fat person in a plain dress and shawl hesitate just inside the doorway.

“Good mor—noon! Good afternoon. How may I help you?”

Long, straight brown hair falls in a braid down her back; dark eyes rest on scuffed boots peeking out from under the hem of her russet dress and cream petticoats. The dress betrays brighter streaks of red at the bust and side seams where it’s been let out, but it fits her broad chest and heavy arms without bulging or straining, and he sighs in envy. He can darn and patch, salvaging stockings and trousers worn at the knee, but fitting a second-hand shirt large enough for his shoulders without sagging at the waist is a skill beyond him. Is she a seamstress? Something about her looks familiar, but when he thinks back on the tailors, drapers and weavers occupying Devotion Lane, he can’t place her face.

“Good noon.” She doesn’t look up from her boots. Skin midway between olive and sienna darkens at her cheeks and nose, and she clutches a battered leather satchel tight to her side. A braided cord hangs around her neck, damp at the front as though chewed on. Small nose, even teeth, fluttering eyelids, creased brow. Nervous? “I want … I have a list of books. Would you be able to tell me if you have them? Please?”

Her high, stuttering voice sounds a little too clipped for downwall folk, but the clothes are worn by every labouring woman in the Boneyard.

“I can do that, ma’am.” Nevo stays by the shelf, thinking it better if she comes to him, but she flinches as though he moved at her. “I can also take down a list and let you know should we get them in—particularly if you want anything from outside.”

She reaches into the satchel and pulls out a folded, crumpled piece of paper. Only then does she take three steps, moving just far enough that she can extend her hand and let Nevo reach for the sheet, her eyes now fixed on the shelf of atlases. “These ones. Please. It’s for … research. I’m … a student and I’m researching, the, the … the ways of the … their disregard of…”

Nevo takes the list from her fingers, draws his arm back to give her space, unfolds the sheet … and blinks.

Keep reading at Patreon: Jeile

Advertisements

Warning and Advising: A Community Conversation, Part Two

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

This is a collection of discussion points and questions on the subject of broadening the aromantic community’s understanding of content advisories and building an environment that doesn’t alienate, other or sexualise allo-aros in seeking to protect aros who experience repulsion.

For more information on why I think such conversations are necessary, please see part one of this post.

Warnings for Attraction and Identity

Are tags like #pansexual and #allosexual sufficient advisory for any discussion about or references to sexual attraction (as distinct from sexual experience) when paired with aromantic tags? If something is tagged #alloaro or #allosexual, is there any reason to warn further for discussions only referencing sexual attraction?

Do we need to warn for romance mentions when tagging works with the names of romantic-attraction-experiencing identities like #lithromantic? Is it reasonable to assume that these tags should also serve as sufficient advisory for romance mentions and references?

Should we handle either circumstance differently when lithromantic or allo-aro works are also being crosstagged to #aromantic or #safeforaro? What are the community expectations for warning when it comes to crosstagged content in general aromantic spaces? We need to help aros who experience attraction understand what’s expected of us in shared community spaces, because fearing that we will misstep leaves us too afraid to speak at all.

Should we create a tag or tags for use by aros who choose not to warn for sexual/romantic-coded content, references or depictions of sexual/romantic attraction in our posts? This means we can post in general aromantic spaces without extra warning tags (as many aros may not be able to provide these!) but still allow aros who experience sexual/romantic repulsion to blacklist said posts.

Continue reading “Warning and Advising: A Community Conversation, Part Two”

Hallo, Aro: Loveless – K. A. Cook

Cover image for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aromantic Flash Fiction. Cover features dark pink handwritten type on a mottled green background with a large line-drawn peacock feather, several sketch-style leaves and swirly text dividers. Green arrows sit underneath each line of text. A translucent overlay of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold alloaro flag sits underneath the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: A disabled, pansexual, aromantic cis man discussing the reasons why the phrase “I don’t love” encompasses his platonic and familial relationships.

Content Advisory: Non-detailed mentions of death, war, violence, abuse, cissexism and suicidal ideation. More detailed references to off-page ableism and abuse, including a parent’s breaking of an autistic child’s stim toy. Depictions of heterosexism and heterosexist slurs/sex negative language.

Links: PDF | EPUB | MOBI | Patreon

(PDF, EPUB and MOBI files are also available for download from Patreon.)

Length: 1, 000 words / 4 PDF pages.

Note: This story takes place between The Eagle Court stories A Prince of the Dead and The King of Gears and Bone. I always planned to elaborate on Paide’s statement of love later in the series (and have done so in the drafts of the sequel novel, Birds of a Feather). The need for empowering, sympathetic fictional representation of loveless aros and aros with complicated relationships to love, however, provoked me to tell this story now.

It may help new readers to know that the narrator is a revenant, ensorcelled by the necromancer he fought.

Little does this world hate more than a loveless man, save perhaps a loveless woman.

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Loveless – K. A. Cook”

Poetry Collection: Aro and Loveless

Handdrawn illustration of a green meadow foreground with green and yellow pine trees growing against a mint-hued sky. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aromantic pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Poetry sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

In my current queue and drafts for Tumblr, it feels like the majority of fiction and poetry is centred on promoting, celebrating and valuing the non-romantic ways aros still love. As much as I respect and support the need for other aros to tell their stories about love, I have to admit to feeling alienated. I’m struggling to find an equal number of depictions of aro identity and self-expression that don’t focus on an aro’s love.

So here’s a collection of reblogged aro poetry more welcoming for loveless aros and aros with complicated relationships to love. These pieces still reference love and discuss love, romance and amatonormativity. They’re not, however, focused on presenting or showcasing the author or narrator’s platonic or familial love. In other words, an aro narrator’s need to love or have their love seen and valued by others is not what these poems are about.

Continue reading “Poetry Collection: Aro and Loveless”

DiOW: Men Bound By Blood

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Nevo learns his mystery man’s name, but Harper’s slip of the tongue means that Nevo makes a promise to his father he may not be able to keep.

Setting: Two years before the beginning of the war referenced in Their Courts of Crows and Maybe When the Bones CrumbleDifferent in Other Ways introduces a brand-new set of characters and circumstances; readers don’t need any familiarity with my other works.

Content Advisory: Casual swearing, depictions of working-class anxiety and classism, alcoholism as an expression of trauma, references to casual fantasy-style violence. Many references to heterosexism and cissexism.

Links: Series Master Post | Patreon

Previous: Booksellers Who Know Things

Length: 2, 736 words.

“She gave me a list.” Nevo slams his empty mug onto the scratched table, wishing that he dared drink enough to distract himself from Lenlil. “Of everything I’m supposed to do around customers. But I’m also supposed to finish books quicker, and if I don’t she’ll hire someone else because there’s fifty people who want this job and I should be grateful.” He tries not to snarl and fails. “I have to stop what I’m doing and serve, but stopping means I can’t finish everything else she expects finished, and how can I do anything when there’s not enough space? And books get nicked when I can’t properly stack and sort…?” He ends with a strangled exclamation, too frustrated for words.

Da just gives an encouraging grunt.

Except for Nevo’s habit of hiding queer books from outside bulk lots and listing them as school readers when selling to folks in the underground, he’s done as right by Lenlil as anyone can. “And she knows … I think she knows that I need to work somewhere like a bookshop. Not why, exactly … you know?”

He looks across at Da’s craggy face, an older, sunbrowned version of Nevo’s broad forehead and wide-set brown eyes. Tangle-prone blond hair, white skin, thick brows, the kind of height and brawn that makes every bed and doorway in Ihrne a trial and suggests less gentleness than both men own. Nevo knows what he’ll look like at forty: Da.

Perhaps without the eyes oft bloodshot and watery or the tinge of sallowness lurking underneath flushed cheeks.

Perhaps.

“She doesn’t think…?”

Nevo shakes his head. He’s no actor, but thus far his build discourages the speculative whispers plaguing the men Ragen and his boot-lickers like to accuse. If he isn’t working on a build lot surrounded by men discussing women, his appearance undermined by his inability to respond to questions, jokes and attempts to set him up with everyone’s daughters, Nevo needs only avoid obvious displays of interest. Lenlil may be a trial, but Nevo doesn’t fail as badly at masculinity when he spends his days indoors. A bookseller is allowed more space for shyness and awkwardness than a labourer.

“You’re not going to get yourself fucking killed by having words at her?” Da speaks slowly despite the cursing.

Nevo still recollects the days when such words never passed Da’s lips.

“I try hard not to get myself killed, Da.”

Keep reading at Patreon: Men Bound by Blood

Warning and Advising: A Community Conversation, Part One

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Advisory: Discussions of cissexism, heterosexism, allosexism, allo-aro antagonism/erasure and amatonormativity; examples of sex negative language. This piece also uses the word queer and contains sex and sexual attraction mentions.

Or: why the aro community should discuss our use of content advisories, particularly in light of how they other, alienate and exclude allosexual aromantics.

Not even a decade ago, it was difficult to find queer works that didn’t warn for queerness. Stories (usually from indie presses or posted to LiveJournal, FictionPress or Fanfiction.net) that depicted people like me came burdened by warnings of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender characters who may, gasp, engage in sex that didn’t include one cishet character boning a cishet character of the other binary gender.

I’m not talking about genre tags, like labelling a work “lesbian romance”. I’m talking about lines like “readers should be advised that this fic contains sex scenes between two men” even though the story was posted to a community collating m/m fiction. I’m talking about lines like “this fic is about lesbians and hate comments will be deleted” even though the piece was tagged as “lesbian”. I’m talking about a culture where it was deemed vital and necessary to warn for queer people engaged in intimacy. By contrast, the sex in cishet relationships merited warnings for explicitness, not people.

Often these warnings were placed on the same line as advisories for violence, sexual assault, explicit sexual acts or other content society recognises as potentially distressing. When I left comments telling authors what it feels like to keep seeing this sexualisation as a queer and transgender reader and writer, I earnt rejection, denial, refusal and abuse. I don’t know how many hate messages I got; all I remember is that nearly everyone I spoke to told me that they would keep on warning.

Even if warning for queer were somehow a value-neutral advertisement, the lack of comparative warnings for heterosexuality positioned this otherwise.

Continue reading “Warning and Advising: A Community Conversation, Part One”

I Am Not Voldemort: An Essay on Love and Amatonormativity

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Content Advisory: Discussions of and references to love, amatonormativity, ableism, neurodiversity, autism, familial abuse and partner abuse.

This June, I saw an increasing number of positivity and support posts for the aromantic and a-spec communities discussing the amatonormativity of “everyone falls in love”. I agree: the idea that romantic love is something everyone experiences, and is therefore a marker of human worth, needs deconstruction.

Unfortunately, a majority of these posts are replacing the shackles of amatonormativity with restrictive lines like “everyone loves, just not always romantically”, referencing the importance of loving friends, QPPs, family members and pets. Sometimes it moves away from people to encompass love for hobbies, experiences, occupations and ourselves. The what and how tends to vary from post to post, but the idea that we do and must love someone or something, and this love redeems us as human and renders us undeserving of hatred, is being pushed to the point where I don’t feel safe or welcome in my own aromantic community. Even in the posts meant to be challenging the more obvious amatonormativity, it is presumed that aros must, in some way, love.

I’ve spent weeks watching my a-spec and aro communities throw neurodiverse and survivor aros under the bus in order to do what the aromantic community oft accuses alloromantic aces of doing: using their ability to love as a defence of their humanity. Because I love, they say, I also don’t deserve to be a target of hatred, aggression and abuse.

But what if I don’t love?

What if love itself has been the mechanism of the hatred and violence I have endured?

Why am I, an aro, neurodiverse survivor of abuse and bullying, still acceptable collateral damage?

Continue reading “I Am Not Voldemort: An Essay on Love and Amatonormativity”